Presence of the leadership of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), in Parliament yesterday derailed tabling of a motion to facilitate fast-tracking of the crucial Electoral Reforms Bills.
HRDC national chairperson Timothy Mtambo and vice-chairperson Gift Trapence had taken their seats in the public gallery in the afternoon when Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi stood on a point of order to announce that there will be no security for the 193 legislators during the planned HRDC vigils at Parliament.
The minister was referring to HRDC’s sentiments earlier yesterday that they will hold vigils at Parliament Building to compel members of Parliament (MPs) to pass the Electoral Reforms Bills as ordered by the Constitutional Court on February 3 2020.
Dausi said: “We will not be able to protect all the 193 members from HRDC as they plan their vigils tomorrow. Their acts are thuggery and they are associated with demonstrations which end up with violence, so it will be difficult.”
Deputy Leader of the House Martha Chanjo Lunji Mhone, who is also Minister of Labour, Skills and Innovation, echoed Dausi’s sentiments and said MPs could not continue deliberating while the HRDC leadership was in the public gallery as they were a security threat.
Zomba Ntonya MP Nedson Poya (United Democratic Front-UDF) said HRDC has surpassed its limits by planning to disturb Parliament business as if they have already known what will transpire in the House.
He said the protesters should be given a place 100 metres from Parliament Building where they can hold their vigils.
Said Poya: “I don’t think it is proper that they [HRDC] come and disturb my work here. This is uncalled for.”
But Dowa East MP Richard Chimwendo Banda (Malawi Congress Party-MCP), also standing on point of order, said it was strange that the House has started selecting visitors to the extent of throwing out some Malawians.
In her reaction, Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani Hara said the issue was of national importance, but said Dausi should have used proper channels and relevant standing orders to raise the concern in the House.
When the House reconvened after the HRDC team left, the Speaker assured legislators of full security, saying by law Parliament is a protected place and people cannot hold a vigil within its precincts.
She said: “I will try my best to take control of the House tomorrow and we are assured that security will be available.”
Hara said the House will today move the motion to waive Standing Orders to facilitate consideration of three private member’s motions for Electoral Reforms Bills.
The House was supposed to have the motions ready yesterday with Chitipa East MP Kezzie Msukwa (MCP), Lilongwe City South West MP Nancy Tembo (independent) and Nkhata Bay West MP Chrispin Chanju Mphande (UTM Party) moving them to have Electoral Reforms Bill tabled today.
In an interview after the early adjournment, Hara said she had no option but to adjourn in the hope that today the motions will be moved and the bills presented.
She said: “We agreed to start with government business and in the afternoon we were supposed to have the motion, but because of the chaos, we could not continue with that business.”
In an interview after the suspension, Trapence expressed his disappointment with the turn of events, saying their constitutional rights were being infringed.
He said it was unfortunate that they were called names when Parliament security had cleared them and granted them access.
He said: “We came here as ordinary Malawians. We have engaged with different committees of Parliament, why are they threatened with us?
“We are worried that they have curtailed debate because of us. We don’t understand.”
Despite the departure of the HRDC team, chaotic scenes continued prompting Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa to propose an early adjournment for the day. n